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well-being ? Or that the workers themselves, gradually becoming
articulate through the intimacies of town life, should turn their
eyes to Parliament in the hope of getting some amelioration of
their conditions from State action ? But here, again, there was a
counter-movement. The new middle class of factory owners and
managers, who had grown rich on the extraordinary profits of
the mills and factories, were not disposed to favour improvements
in working-class conditions which would make their " hands "
less dependent on them. They were content with the competitive
system which had brought themselves to the top. If by personal
effort they had prospered, there did not seem to them to be any
reason why others should not be able to help themselves by
similar means. State interference, they argued, would paralyse
individual enterprise and destroy character by withdrawing
incentives to self-help. Laissez faire, laissez aller. Hence they
joined forces with the landed classes and the Church in resisting
all attempts to introduce a national system of popular education ;
and for the time being they succeeded.

Notwithstanding their opposition, however, the government
found itself compelled to concern itself with education as a
means of diminishing some of the more glaring evils of the
factory system. The first Factory Act, the Health and Morals
of Apprentices Act, passed in 1802, besides limiting the hours
of labour for apprentices in cotton and woollen mills to twelve
a day and prohibiting night work, prescribed that " every such
apprentice shall be instructed in some part of each working day,
for the first four years at least of his or her apprenticeship, in the
usual hours of work, in reading, writing, and arithmetic, or either
of them, according to the age and ability of such apprentice, by
some discreet and proper person, to be provided and paid by the
master or mistress of such apprentice, in some room or place in
such mill or factory to be set aside for that purpose." The Act
only applied to a comparatively small number of children, and
even these few benefited little by it in the absence of proper
inspection. But it was a beginning : it established a new precedent
for State action. For a time, indeed, there were no signs of the
State going any further. All proposals for the public provision
of education, or even for contributions from the exchequer to
the support of the voluntary schools, came to nothing, in con-
sequence of sectarian difficulties. It was not till 1833, ^ Year